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No Plans for Regime Change in Libya, Assures U.N. Chief

Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS, Mar 24 2011 (IPS) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon brushed aside widespread speculation that the U.S.-led military attacks on Libya is part of a much-wider plan with a hidden political agenda: the ouster of Muammar el-Gaddafi from power.

“We have a very clear objective – and that objective is to provide protection to civilians and save lives,” he told reporters Thursday, immediately following a meeting of the Security Council.

Responding to questions from reporters, Ban was however unequivocal in accusing the Libyan leader of “killing his own people”.

What the United Nations is trying to do, under the terms of the Security Council resolution adopted last week, was to prevent further killings, he added.

The resolution was not meant to “change regime”, he said, stressing the role of the United Nations in resolving a humanitarian crisis resulting in over 330,000 people fleeing the country due to violence.

In contrast, U.S. President Barack Obama has repeatedly said that Gaddafi has lost political legitimacy and has to go – even as the incessant bombings have targeted his household compound.

When the Security Council adopted its far-reaching resolution imposing economic and military sanctions on Libya, all 192 member states were mandated to “notify” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of their intentions to help implement the punitive measures against the North African country.

But as of Thursday, only two Arab countries out of 11 member states – Qatar and the United Arab Emirates – have informed the secretary-general they were participating in the action against Libya.

The remaining nine – Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Norway, Spain, the UK and the United States – are Western nations who are also members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

Additionally, NATO has informed the secretary-general of its decision to begin a collective operation in support of the arms embargo against Libya, besides its active role in the military operations to enforce a no-fly zone.

The United States has expressed disappointment that more Arab nations, including Jordan, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, have not joined the notifiers so far.

Both Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, who are strong U.S. allies, are reportedly peeved that the Obama administration has not been supportive of Bahrain, a neighbouring Arab country facing a mass uprising.

But Washington has been critical of Bahrain primarily because of its crackdown on civilian protesters using military force.

Responding to questions, U.N. spokesperson Martin Nesirky told reporters that member states were notifying the secretary-general under the terms of the resolution.

But the notifications “do not necessarily mean they are taking part in any military action,” he clarified.

Briefing the Security Council Thursday, the secretary- general called on the international community to act collectively to avert a potential larger-scale crisis.

“I expect the international community to continue to exercise full diligence in avoiding civilian casualties and collateral damage,” he told the Council, amidst report of air and missile strikes inside Libya.

Ban was critical of the Libyan government, which has repeatedly claimed a ceasefire but never put it into force. To the contrary, said Ban, there have been fierce battles in or around the cities of Ajdabiya, Misratah and Zitan, among others.

“In short, there is no evidence that Libyan authorities have taken steps to carry out their obligations under Resolutions 1970 or 1973,” he said.

Both resolutions, which were adopted during the last two weeks, called for a ceasefire and full protection of civilians.

Ban said he continues to have serious concerns about the protection of civilians, the abuse of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, and the access of civilian populations to basic commodities and services in areas currently under siege.

He also told the Security Council that Gaddafi’s threats were aired repeatedly on national television.

“Journalists continue to be arrested. Foreign reporters in Tripoli told the U.N. mission about the population’s general state of fear, tight control by the security services, and instances of arrest and disappearances,” he said.

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